The COVID excuse too much; hardships pre-date pandemic – Gatsi to gov’t

The COVID excuse too much; hardships pre-date pandemic – Gatsi to gov’t

The government of Ghana is unduly using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for its poor handling of the economy, the Dean of the School of Business at the University of Cape Coast, Prof John Gartchie Gatsi, has told Blessed Sogah on Class91.3FM’s mid-day news 12Llive on Monday, 10 May 2021.

Prof Gatsi said although “it’s a fact that the pandemic has done a lot of havoc to the economy globally” and “has affected our momentum of growth, revenue mobilisation and expenditure”, he thinks “by now, the government should appreciate the fact that Ghanaians don’t believe that the problems that they are talking about, in terms of jobs, in terms of hardships, started with COVID”.

In his view, “COVID came to aggravate the already-existing hardships of Ghanaians”, adding: “We started talking about, or hearing about the erosion of the income of Ghanaians, hardships of Ghanaians, limited access to opportunities long before COVID-19”.

“So, we appreciate the fact that COVID-19 had a toll on the economy but if that will be used as the cause of the hardship of Ghanaians, then appreciating the issues becomes a problem”, Prof Gatsi observed.  

He said the “government should just be bold and publish the details of expenditure, monies that have been borrowed for COVID-related purposes” and “you’ll see that that will be around 2.5 to 2.8 per cent of GDP”.

Prof Gatsi’s comments come on the back of Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta’s rallying call to the #FixTheCountry campaigners to join hands with the government in fixing the economy during a press conference on Sunday, 9 May 2021 at which he laid the chunk of the country’s economic woes on the pandemic.

“In extraordinary times, you should expect exceptional leadership from your government. I truly believe we cannot ensure exceptional leadership without a collective effort”, Mr Ofori-Atta said, adding: “So, I commend the youth for calling on the government and leaders to be at their best. This shows the patriotism of the Ghanaian Youth, echoing the President’s call to be a citizen, not a spectator. You have elected us to solve the problems that face this country. We will continue to work with you and other stakeholders to do just that”.

Touching on some specifics, the Finance Minister said “we are also fixing this rising debt burden on Ghana”.

The debt stock, as of end-December 2020, he noted, “stood at a nominal figure of GH¢291,614 million, representing 76.1 per cent of GDP compared to GH¢217,991 million, equivalent to 62.4 per cent of GDP in 2019”.

The total public debt, he observed, “has increased from GH¢122 billion (56.9% of GDP) in 2016 to GH¢ 291.6 billion (76.1% of GDP) at the end of December 2020”.

He said included in the debt stock and the debt/GDP ratio at the end of 2020 are the following non-recurrent burdens that “we had to deal with as a matter of urgency”:

a.   Fiscal Impact of COVID-19 – GH¢ 25.2 billion;

b.   Cost of Financial Sector Clean-up –  GH¢ 21 billion;

c.   Cost of Excess Capacity Charges paid to IPPs – GH¢ 12 billion;

d.   The impact of the reduction in growth from an average of 7% (2017-2019) to 0.4% in 2020.

“If these expenditures are excluded, and the drop in GDP growth in 2020 primarily attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic is taken into account”, Mr Ofori-Atta said “the total stock of debt for 2020 would have been approximately GH¢ 238.9 billion, implying a debt to GDP ratio of 58.7%, which is below the ECOWAS threshold of 70%”.

To put things into perspective, he said:

e.   Between 2004 and 2008, Ghana’s debt stock increased by 30%.

f.    Between 2008 and 2012, the debt stock increased by 269%.

g.   Between 2012 and 2016, the increase in the debt stock was 243%.

h.   Between 2016 and 2020, the increase in Ghana’s debt stock was 137% (This includes the cost of the banking sector clean-up, excess capacity charges and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Also, he said the government has “financed the construction of seven (7) on going interchanges across the country, including those at Takoradi, Tamale, Tema, Obetsebi-Lamptey and Pokuase to ease the traffic and enhance productivity”.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, he said “the rate of growth of the public debt has been lower under our government than under previous administrations, explaining: “The rate of debt growth was lower despite massive investments in our flagship programmes such as free SHS, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), NABCO, One District-One Factory (1D1F), One Constituency One Ambulance, One Village One Dam (1V1D), restoration of teacher and nursing training allowances amongst others while maintaining relative macroeconomic and exchange rate stability”.

“Notwithstanding, as President Akufo-Addo said on February 21st, 2017 and I quote, ‘I was not elected by the overwhelming majority of the Ghanaian people to complain or ‘compare’. I was elected to get things done; I was elected to fix what is broken and my Government and I are determined to do just that’. We commit to working with fellow Ghanaians to do just that!” he noted. 

He listed the following interventions as the measures being rolled out in response to the #Fixtheeconomy concerns:

2.           Ladies and Gentlemen, in the coming days, we will move swiftly to address some of the issues that the #Fixtheeconomy have raised. 

3.           First, I am working with the Minister of Water and Sanitation to immediately ensure potable water to areas with felt need, especially in the most urban areas.

4.           Second, I am working with the Ministers of Roads and Highways, Transport and for the Interior to address congestion along the major highways. 

5.           Third, we are fast-tracking the implementation of the US$200million Jobs and Skills Programme to enhance job creation significantly. This intervention is designed to facilitate new and expanded private sector businesses to employ a lot more people. This we believe is a more sustainable way to rebuild this economy instead of expanding Government employment schemes.

6.           Fourth, starting this month, we are rolling over 8 additional interventions under the GhanaCARES “Obataanpa” programme. These will be in the Health, Agriculture, Tourism, Trade, Digitization, Science and technology, Housing and financial services.

7.           Fifth, by the end of July, we will have a new Development Bank that will provide long-term wholesale financing to the private sector through Commercial banks.


8.           The good people of Ghana have given us a mandate to get things done. For us as a Government, this is a clarion call for a national conversation on the shared burden to renew the social contract of our democracy.  At its minimum, we should ensure social justice and social mobility for most Ghanaians. At our best, we should open for all Ghanaians, an economic system under which each citizen shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best in him or her. As I always have, I will commit to working to fix those structures that will set Ghana on this path.

9.           Ladies and Gentlemen, before I end, permit me to take this opportunity to wish our mothers, wives, and sisters a Happy Mother’s Day. Out of their daily toils, we can face each day to fix our challenges in building this Nation. God Bless them abundantly.

10.        So let us Rise Up and Build together #Letsfixthistogether